After months cooped up at home with gyms closed and outdoor activities limited, it’s no surprise that some of us have seen a bit of unwanted weight gain during lockdown.
It’s not just the lack of exercise, either; many of us have indulged in a few too many snacks during our work from home day, an extra glass of wine in the evening to destress, and treated ourselves to one too many takeaways. And who can blame us?
A bit of extra weight isn’t the end of the world, but poor eating habits and a lack of exercise is going to be bad for your health in the long-term. As lockdown starts to ease, you might be considering how to get back into your pre-lockdown shape so follow these five tips for beginners to lose your lockdown weight — healthily and safely.
Ditch the snacks
Being stuck at home and bored has probably meant you’ve been reaching for the snacks more often than usual, especially when you’re working from home and you’re missing the usual interactions of the office. As such, it’s easy to accidentally work your way through an entire bag of sweets in a day.
To kickstart your post lockdown weight loss, get rid of the snacks and don’t buy anymore. If you need something in between meals, stock up on healthy snacks like fruit and vegetables (although you still need to avoid overindulging).
Carrot sticks, cucumber and celery make a quick snack, and apples and bananas have high nutritional value. Popcorn is also a good low-calorie snack — or try hard-boiled eggs which, again, are low-calorie but high in protein.
Avoid weight loss pills & fad diets
There are thousands of different diet plans and appetite suppressant options out there that promise you’ll see the weight just falling off in days or weeks. But whether you’re cutting out certain food groups, fasting intermittently, or counting every last calorie intake, these often only work to varying degrees depending on a number of individual factors.
Appetite suppressants are also often seen as an easy way to help you cut down your food intake and lose weight. They work by stopping two neurotransmitters (noradrenaline and serotonin) from being reabsorbed, which forces more of these chemicals to act in your brain. This enhances the feeling of being full when you eat so that you can eat less.
It sounds like the perfect trick for losing weight, but they are potentially very dangerous to take. There’s no medical evidence to suggest appetite suppressants work, and there are many unwanted side effects. They are also generally only available to buy online, which means they are unregulated with no guarantees of what you’re actually buying.
For the most part, extreme weight-loss diets or diet pills aren’t a sustainable approach to losing those extra pounds.
Eat well-balanced meals
The best way to lose weight is to maintain a steady, balanced diet that provides your body with all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that it needs.
This will help you to lose weight and keep the weight off. Plus, it gives you more energy to exercise and stay motivated, whereas skipping meals or cutting out parts of your diet can leave you feeling tired and sluggish.
Start by cutting out processed foods — they often have higher calories and contain more saturated fat and sugar that’s going to slow down your weight loss. Instead, aim for fruit and vegetables that are low in fat and calories but high in fibre, which helps to fill you up. Other high-fibre foods like beans, lentils, brown rice and wholegrain pasta will keep you feeling full for longer, reducing your impulse to snack between meals.
Protein should also be a key part of your diet. Not only will it help curb your appetite, but it’s essential for repairing your body and maintaining your health.
Commit to exercise
Your diet alone probably isn’t going to be enough to shift all of your lockdown weight, so you’ll need to work some exercise into your daily routine. Even if you’re not ready to get back in the gym just yet, there are still plenty of ways to exercise at home or outdoors and lose weight.
Your focus should be on cardiovascular exercises and weight-lifting exercises — activities that get your heart rate up and help you to burn calories. This doesn’t mean you have to dive straight in at the deep end with an intense HIIT class or 10km run.
If you’re completely out of shape or struggling to motivate yourself to exercise, then just start with walking. It’s low impact and a good starting point for your weight loss. Try walking for at least half an hour three or four times a week.
If you’re up to something a bit more active then jogging, swimming, cycling, and cardio home workouts are all good ways to burn calories. Weight training can also help build strength and encourage muscle growth, which raises your resting metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns while you’re resting).
Exercise isn’t just going to help you lose weight either — it can also improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. In turn, this will give you more motivation to stay on track with your weight loss.
Improve your sleeping habits
It’s no surprise with such an upheaval to daily life that throughout lockdown many people have struggled to sleep. But getting back into a good sleeping pattern is going to be key to losing weight. When you’re tired, you lack motivation to exercise, cook and eat well, and those tasty snacks and easy takeaways seem like a much easier option.
Try to stick to the same sleeping pattern every day (aim for six to eight hours per night) and avoid lie-ins even at the weekend. Unwind before you go to bed; put your phone and laptop away, meditate, or read a book, so you can properly switch off from work and other life stresses.
Make long term health goals
At the end of the day, there really isn’t a quick fix to lose your lockdown weight.
You’re far more likely to stick to new habits if you’re making small, achievable changes to your day to day life. Extreme diets and exercise plans that are focused on losing a specific amount of weight aren’t productive or sustainable in the long run.
If you don’t reach the unrealistic goals you set yourself, you’re likely to revert back to your old habits and undo the progress you have made. Set yourself sensible goals that focus on generally improving your eating habits and introducing more exercise into your schedule gradually.
Losing your lockdown weight isn’t going to happen overnight. But improving your diet, cutting down on snacks, and getting up and moving about is going to set you on the right path.